Saturday Musings: Fostering Creativity

My home is a plethora of papers, writing utensils, paints, and all manner of art mediums. We have sculpted clay pots sitting on mantels, hand drawn cards on the walls and refrigerators, and various paintings and drawings just about anywhere you look. We’re not art collectors, though. We’re parents.

Our kitchen table was purchased used and fairly unmarred two years ago. Now it has permanent marker, pen, paint, and scratches all over it. It very nearly matches the table in the play room that is MEANT for art work.

We have a keyboard, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, and violins. At some point during the evening you’ll hear someone singing and playing one or more of these instruments. And they are playing very well (unless it’s me on the violin).

One twin working macrame

Another twin working on a song mashup

On any given weekend you’ll look around and someone is knitting. Or sewing. Or listening to music and pursuing some form of art. Sound like a mad house? Yes and no.
We encourage our kids to be creative. If they express an interest in some form of art we let them follow it with everything they’ve got. Yes, there’s usually some mess and we have to clean it up, but it’s so worth it. Clay stuck in the carpets or in the cracks of the rolling pin is not unusual.

So why doesn’t this bother me? Other than the fact that my husband and I both love and participate in many different art forms, we’re also preparing our kids for a future with much success. I’m not talking about grades (even though they’re all A students) or a singing career. I’m talking about an ability few will have and which many high-level employers look for: Creativity.

Schools in general have put less and less emphasis on being creative and more and more on passing the tests. Sure, math is important. But what about the ability to think outside the box? The desire to do and create what no one has done before?

In a society that values intelligence and ingenuity, we’re stifling natural curiosity and free-thinking with prescribed roles and standards. I wonder what would’ve happened if someone had told the first caveman that fire was a stupid idea and he (or she) had listened to them. If that same cave person had instead taken a test on the origin of his most recent meal, would we all still be living in caves, eating raw meat, and freezing?

Google offices are set up like playrooms, solely with the intent of inspiring creativity and thought. Why should my house be any different? Did I mention my kids are ‘A’ students? During their toddler years and for 4 years of school, we home educated them. My twins went to pre-k and my son went from kindergarten to second grade in public school. During a parent teacher conference for my girls, the teacher expressed her awe and amazement over the scissor cutting exercise my girls had done. “How did you teach them to do this?” She asked. My response, “They’ve been cutting paper and using safety scissors since they were big enough to hold them. We’ve always encouraged creativity.”

In kindergarten, my son’s teacher told me AND him that he “would NEVER be able to do math well.” Yes. Kindergarten. Einstein’s dad was also told his son would need remediation.

Now I’m not saying my kids are going to be recognized as the smartest people on earth. Or that clay will help you mold your child’s mind to that of a great architect. But people that are not afraid to go after their ideas or think creatively are the ones that will bring us alternative fuel sources and solutions to make life better. They’re the ones that can end wars without bloodshed and incite movement and will in the hearts of others. Let your kids paint. Let them create. Let them make a mess and clean it up.  Let them become the hope for the future.

Encouraging and fostering creativity is just as important as winning the next little league game or passing the big test. Perhaps more so.

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